17 August 2017

Today I have learnt to do a Blog in anticipation of my big trip to Europe.  I say Europe but in actual fact, I am going to Paris and then getting a train down to St Jean Pied de Port and walking the Way of St James – the Camino de Compostella – from France across the top of Spain into Santiago – 800kms.

Two weeks until I fly out of Sydney off on my big adventure.  It has been a while since I travelled to the northern hemisphere and I am sure I will see a lot of changes but this will add to the experience and adventure I am about to embark on.



Rain rain go away!

Woke to the sound of rain on my windows.

How dare it rain when I am on holidays!

Slept in this morning after our late night last night.

It was pretty miserable outside but we got ourselves ready for a day out.

Had an exciting start to our day out. Max took me to the local tip!

One thing I have noticed here in France everyone is very conscious of recycling, bottles, paper, rubbish and even Nespresso capsules. There was a special bin at the dump to put them in.

We headed out to Quiberon which is at the furthest point around the bay from Max’s. There is a sort of causeway going there and a fully functioning fort. Been in use protecting the place from invaders for 1000s of years.

Got out to the coast which is actually the Atlantic Ocean. The other side where I was swimming is also the Atlantic but known as the Bay of Biscay.

Drove around to Quiberon and there at the end of the point was this very fairytale looking castle. Apparently a very old rich man owns it and lives in it.

We drove through the town which of course was another beautiful town

It was lunchtime so went and found a lovely restaurant down on the waterfront and had the local fair.

Sardines, crepes and rose

As the weather was so bad we got back in the car and drove all over the place.

As you can see from some of these photos these are people’s holiday homes. Saddest thing is they only come down for a few weeks in the summer and are closed up for the rest of the year.

I would be more than willing to look after them for the owners.

It was such a miserable day we went on an adventure to Vannes so Max could buy a sink, vacuum cleaner and taps. How exciting. Saw the French version of Bunnings!!!

We came home and had a little rest as we had been invited out to dinner to Christine and Vincent’s place who live in the most gorgeous place. It was too wet to take photos but just beautiful.

They had another couple as well. Bernadette and Didian. It was a lovely night and the food was to die for. Vincent cooked clams on the barbecue in a Bloody Mary sauce. Out of this world. Followed by a citron tiramisu which was so delicious Christine gave me a doggy bag to bring home.

I have asked for the recipe in English.

Bernadette is an artist. She gets porcelain from Limoge and paints it then fires it. She showed me some of her work and it was stunning.

So another wonderful day in Carnac and here it is 12.30am and still sitting up as it only got dark about an hour ago.

Buon nuit

Living the village life

Today started off with coffee in the Cafe Breton with Vincent then it was off to the markets to do the shopping.

Love a market and this was no exception. In this part of town there is one on Sunday and Wednesday. Another town it is Tuesday and Saturday so there is never a shortage of fresh produce as well as clothes, hats, jewellery, kitchen utensils and versions other items. They were huge markets and the food. OMG!

The spices and paella and fish and periwinkles and pippies. Absolutely wonderful.

After the markets we took a little wander around the town. So old. That is what I love the history.

Max had to go and do some other things so he dropped me off at ‘the stones’ or Megalithes and I played tourist and went on a little train ride around the countryside.

Carnac is famous for these stones. They have been here for over 6000 years and they are the dilemma of the palaeontologists, historians and archeologists as no one is really sure were they came from. There are 3 men who have been studying them for years.

As you can see in the photos they have all been fenced off to stop damage. Carnac has applied for UNESCO world heritage classification as it is of significant historical importance.

The tour went around a few towns and by the harbour

I am loving the Bretagne homes. White with blue shutters. Very cute.

We are now sitting on the balcony overlooking the ocean eating Brittany oysters. So fresh Max just shucked them still with sea water in them.

We got the pushbike out of the garage before lunch so am going to go on a little bike ride around the beachfront after lunch.

Have just been for a 2.5hr bike ride around the area. Very flat and very pretty.

Cycled all the way along the beach front

Then cycled back inland to the Megalithes as there was one in particular I wanted to see that wasn’t on the tour.

It was the giant Megalithe which I found after taking the bike off road down bush tracks that were very pretty.

Turned a corner and there it was.

Just standing there in a rectangle of stones around it

Totally fascinating.

I cycled back into town and found the place where the markets were this morning but absolutely no trace this afternoon.

Cycled back out to the beach and found the town sign for Carnac. It has two names as one is the Bretagne Gaelic Karnag

At this stage of my blog I should show you where I am staying

In the grey roof bit second one across with no white shutters. 4th floor – 63 steps up and no lift.

This is the view

Having a quiet night at home tonight as out for the next 2 nights for dinner with friends and neighbours.

With summer being here and daylight saving. It is now 11.25pm and has just got dark half an hour ago.

It has been lovely today experiencing village life and exploring the area.

Buon nuit

Carnac, France

What a beautiful village. Right on the Bay of Biscay/Atlantic ocean.

Had a great nights sleep and now having a car free day.

Got up this morning and walked along the beach to the village to pick up the croissants and baguettes for breakfast. There is a lovely sea breeze and hope to have a swim in the Atlantic Ocean later on today.

There were people swimming but there was a lot of screaming and swearing. Presumably because of the temperature of the water.

Walking along the beach these were a few of the beach shacks I passed.

I have been told that the majority of these places are closed up all year and opened in July and August when the owners come for their summer holiday. What a waste!

Explored the village and found a few Patisseries and Boulangerie and the smell coming out of them all.

When I am in France I have to have a fresh croissant for breakfast every morning as there is something about that I love. When in France…..

We are having a quiet day today. I am sitting on the beach and we are going out for lunch around 1ish. As I said nothing too strenuous today.

Went for lunch at L’etage with friends of Max’s, Christine and Vincent. Lovely and the setting and lunch was delicious.

Overlooking the harbour with lots of boats, yachts, catamarans, it was lovely

After lunch came back to the house and was so hot I went to the beach.

They have 4m tides here and the tide was out so had to walk quite a way to get in the water and it only came up to my knees. However it was beautiful in and had a good splash around and a swim and lay on the beach for a while.

We had been invited to the neighbours for drinks at 6 just downstairs.

Off we went and I met Robin and Sheila. An English couple but lived in France for years. They bought their unit just after Max.

What a lovely couple

Well so much for drinks. Robin had could a sea bass which they were going to have for dinner and we were invited to stay. So we stumbled home just after midnight. Great night and great people.

Good night

All the way to Carnac

Woke this morning to the sun pouring in my window.

Wandered around the estate and had a look at the pool before breakfast and a farewell to Bruno.

Max and I headed into Loches which is yet another beautiful town in France. There was a castle and battlements overlooking the town and Joan of Arc had come through there 600 years ago and it was her 600th anniversary in 2012.

We had coffee in town and headed off to Amboise which is another beautiful town in France.

This is the town where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life. King Francois 1 gave him a castle to live in called Clos Lucé and it was beautiful.

The inside was lovely and they had rooms set up as his library, his artist studio and his study where he did all his inventions.

Apparently when he went down to this castle he took the Mona Lisa, the virgin child with St Anne and St John the Baptist. These are all now in the Louvre.

It was a very beautiful home and I didn’t realise how many things he invented. Way before his time.

I found something very funny in the kitchen of the house. There was a gossip chair where people sat when visiting

There was also a Mona Lisa rose

The gardens were spectacular and all around them were Leonardo’s inventions that you could actually see how they worked as well as his drawings having in the trees

Of course we couldn’t leave without doing this

It was a lovely way to finish of our journey from Italy to France as we decided it was time to have a day out of the car so headed for Carnac where Max lives.

We had lunch in Amboise before leaving and had a wander around the very beautiful town

I think this town had something to do with the Troglodytes we experienced in the Loire last year as a lot of the houses were built into the cliff and the streets were called Rue de Troglo

Spotted a library for everyone’s use

Had a wonderful lunch and had the dish of the day which was Stingray flaps

Absolutely delicious and the bones after were unusual.

Drove out of town and as I looked back over the Loire river this is what I saw

Loved the town and would come back.

We hit the road and every second place we passed was a little ‘shack’

Pulled in to get petrol and look what pulled in beside us

Did some serious driving this afternoon and arrived at Carnac at about 8pm. Still like daylight.

This is the view from his balcony. The Bay of Biscay/Atlantic Ocean

Now done basics like washing as had no clean clothes left and sitting on the balcony watching the sun set at 10.30pm.

A day by the beach tomorrow.

Goodnight all.

France and Chateaux

Bit overcast today and it rained last night but everything very green.

Set off this morning from Macon and started heading towards home.

Virtually every 10kms there was a chateau and very impressive. I started taking photos at the first one but Max said not to bother as they are a dime a dozen and we are heading to a very fabulous one today.

As it was very overcast and starting to rain we decided to take a main road instead of back roads. The area we were passing through was farming area.

We reached the Loire Valley today and I didn’t realise how big it was. When we were here last year cycling through we only touched a tiny bit of it.

We came through Le Montet for coffee then Monrichard

All the beautiful flower boxes with the colourful flowers I saw today had their own reticulation system.

Kept going until we reached Chenonceau which is the place of a very beautiful chateau

We parked the car and got our ticket for entry and just strolled throughout the rest of the day.

It was a very beautiful chateau built in the 16th century on the river Cher. The original fortified castle and mill were demolished and the only thing remaining was the keep at the front. It had a moat and the history behind it all is full of scandal and intrigue. Most relating to kings and their mistresses and one owner was the husband of Mary queen of scots.

One of the direct descendants of the owners was the novelist George Sands.

It was amazing as well as the incredible gardens and herb gardens.

I had to take photos of all the beds as they were incredible and did not in any way look comfortable.

Apparently in the day (14thC) you were expected to receive your guests in bed. King Louis had approximately 1500 beds to receive his guests. I reckon it was because the huge chateaux were so cold they couldn’t get out of bed as it was the warmest place to be.

Below it all was the kitchens that had its own larder, butchery, bread oven and pantry.

It was a wonderful afternoon spent wandering through the chateau, having lunch in the gardens, wandering through the grounds and imagining what it would have been like to live in those days.

  • We saw all the carriages they had and during the 2nd world war it was transformed into a military hospital and had the very first ever X-ray machine and apothecary.
  • In 1576 Catherine de Medici built a gallery over the the bridge to be able to hold parties when her guests arrived from Paris to visit.
  • There was one on every floor and during the war it was transformed into a hospital.
  • The chateau is still privately owned by the Menier family who have a chocolate factory.
  • A lot of the history is also related to the Medici family. Oh the scandal!!!
  • Many hours later we emerged into the gardens and made our way back to the car to head off 19kms down the road to Gellines where a friend of Max’s, Bruno owned and looked after a chateau.
  • OMG! What a beautiful place. Been in the family for 4 generations and a huge place which was originally used for hunting weekends years ago. The stables and carriages were huge and pheasant, boar and chamois as well as deer were hunted.
  • It is hired out as a Gite (French hostel/weekender for families and the big house is rented out for a lot of people. The chateau has 18 bedrooms. No one was staying so had a look through the place. There were doors leading to doors leading to other doors that took you to other rooms. It was like a maze but fascinating. So much work that needed to be done.
  • Bruno was lovely and we had a wonderful dinner cooked by him out in the garden under the French/Loire sun. Loving the evenings as it doesn’t get dark until 9.30-10ish.
  • Bruno has his own house on the estate but he had given Max and I our own rooms in the Gite. Very comfortable thanks very much.
  • There was also a boat shed and lake
  • Had a wonderful day and a wonderful evening so now it is time to lay my head down on this very comfortable bed in a very comfortable room and think about tomorrow when I wake in the morning.
  • Goodnight
  • Over the hills and far away

    Had the best nights sleep last night and woke to the smell of fresh croissants again. This is the way to wake up.

    Went downstairs and Rose had baked fresh croissants and bread and a wonderful breakfast. I asked for tea and she asked if I wanted builders tea! Gaye knows what I mean. It was delicious and very hot.

    Had a wander around the town of Tignes before we left and would thoroughly recommend the little chalet we stayed in. Rose had the most beautiful cat which I wanted to put in my suitcase

    We set off down the road and we still did quite a bit of climbing and descending but not as high as the last few days.

    I must mention that in all the time we have been driving and crossing mountains and borders the majority of traffic on the road has been cyclists and motorbike riders.

    Going up mountains and there are markers on the side of the road telling cyclists the degree of climb as well as how far to the top

    There were a few more mountains to climb but at the top of these ones apart from there being a huge dam/lake there was a coffee shop open.

    It was a lot warmer at the top of these mountains as well, probably because they were not as high.

    We drove through Beaufort and Ugine which were both very pretty towns.

    We then drove around this massive lake called Lac d’Annecy which was full of chalets and boats on the lake with people lying on the grass round the lake (hot day) and then got to the town of Annecy itself and how beautiful was that. Right on the lake with canals going through the town with swans and ducks and flowers everywhere and little bridges to cross. We could have been in Venice only there were no gondolas and the canals were a bit wider.

    Parked the car and wandered. Max had to change a pair of shoes so found the shop and walked around the corner to the restaurant Brunet which we discovered had a 2019 Michelin star. Need I say the food was fantastic and 3 courses later we wandered out onto the street.

    We had a lovely afternoon in Annecy and after quite a few hours headed back to the car to do a final leg before dark which at the moment is around 9.30-10pm.

    We arrived in Macon at about 7pm having done some more fabulous scenery

    And we are now fed and watered and lying down ready for another day tomorrow. This country just gets prettier and prettier and as I said before the photos don’t do it justice.

    Buon nuei mes amis.

    France/Italy I am 🤷‍♀️

    Woke up this morning to the smell of fresh bread and croissants coming from the boulangerie across the cobblestone street.

    The sun was shining and the alps were right there

    After my first fabulous French croissant for breaky with a cup of tea we were off.

    Heading out of town we were heading north through the French alps

    Headed north through Savines-le-lac which was a huge lake, dam, resort at the bottom of the mountains. Of course the colour of the water was glacial green!! Can imagine how cold it was.

    We saw someone being towed by a boat in a parachute but when it came time for him to land they landed him right into another large boat that was on the lake and took him back to shore in a speed boat.

    On the way just past the lake I spotted a very unusual rock formation or formations and they were called ‘mademoiselles hairdos’

    Unfortunately the photo doesn’t do it justice as they were amazing.

    From there we headed north to Briancon and the start of the French alps. Quite a few of the towns we drove through today were Olympic villages for the winter Olympic Games

    This guy was on one of the many hairpin bends we went around today. I think he represents the men who scaled the mountains to cross them. Of course I could be wrong but sounds good!

    It was over the French alps then and the climb was amazing but confusion was rife as we would be driving along and I would get a message from Telstra saying welcome to France. Then half an hour later I would get another on from them saying Welcome to Italy. Hence my confusion but looking on the map we were crossing over from France to Italy and back again as we were very close to the border and the alps crossed both countries. We also started to see a lot of Swiss flags as well as we neared the Swiss border but no message from Telstra.

    The climb was amazing and right back into the snow.

    Stopped in Briancon for coffee which was a lovely old town and there was some sort of cycling event on. There were bikes everywhere

    One thing I am loving about both Italy and France is the amount of cyclists on the road and how the cars, trucks and motorbikes all give way to them. Let them through give them a wide berth and are so polite about it.

    I can’t believe that the mountains we have been driving up the last 2 days there have been heaps and heaps of cyclists cycling up the mountains as well.

    We stopped in a little town called Oulx for lunch which was funny as we ordered a drink and the amount of goodies they bought out to have with the drinks, we didn’t need lunch

    From here on the climbing and hairpin bends got quite scary. Very thin width roads and in some parts no barrier and a sheer mountain below. Max was amazing that he drove all that way but even admitted he was a little scared.

    That is only a tiny bit of the road we drove up

    By this stage we were so high up we started seeing ski lifts and gondolas everywhere as we had hit the ski fields. Massive ski lifts going across the road and looking up the mountains you could see at least 5-6 ski lifts

    We drove on to Val d’Isere which is quite a famous French ski resort but to get there we had to climb up to 2770m. When we got there snow was everywhere so were cyclists and motorcycles who had all climbed the mountain

    I got out of the car in my shorts, T-shirt and sandals and nearly froze to death.

    Spectacular views and all in snow.

    Apparently this is the highest peak that is accessible by road.

    On the road coming down this is what we drove through

    Yes that is snow on either side of us.

    It was another hairy ride down the mountain and this was definitely the scariest

    You can see the roads and hairpins.

    We were very happy to get down into town which is still 1820m up

    Stopped for a well earned refreshment at Val d’Isere and found some accommodation in the town of Tigne which was another 17kms down the road.

    I have to let you all know that we came from Barcelonette this morning leaving at about 9 and got here around 5 having only travelled 174kms. That is the sort of roads we were travelling on. Most of the roads we weren’t going faster than 5-10kms.

    On our way to Tignes we went through a few tunnels that were built on the side of the mountain but had reinforcements above it to stop everyone being killed by avalanches.

    There was also a massive lake/dam with huge waterfalls coming down the mountains from the melting snow

    We are now settled into a lovely chalet run by a British guy and his Dutch girlfriend which is perfect as they are going to cook up dinner tonight so we don’t have to go anywhere

    This little chalet is so cute and just had the most delicious dinner.

    It is now time for bed.

    Bonne nuit